BCLC demands $500k to release money laundering documents


bclc-freedom-information-casino-money-launderingThe British Columbia Lottery Corporation (BCLC) is raising eyebrows after demanding half a million dollars to produce internal documents related to money laundering at its land-based casinos.

This week, word broke that the Unite Here union, which represents the province’s casino workers, had filed a request under BC’s freedom of information (FOI) laws for all BCLC documents in the past five years that dealt with anti-money laundering (AML) compliance at BC casinos operated by Great Canadian Gaming Corp.

BCLC’s response to Unite Here’s filing was to insist that the union first provide a C$252k (US$201k) deposit on an ultimate charge of $504k that the Crown corporation insisted was required for it to produce the requested information.

Unite Here rep Marc Hollin told the Vancouver Sun that the payment demand left him “absolutely flabbergasted.” Hollin called the fee “prohibitively high” and let him with the impression that the fee “was a deterrent to accessing information.”

BCLC has been scraping egg off its face ever since last September, when the province’s newly elected NDP government discovered that the previous Liberal regime had buried a damning report detailing rampant money laundering at BC casinos, with particularly egregious behavior at the River Rock Casino in Richmond, day-to-day management of which is the responsibility of Great Canadian Gaming.

Unite Here has asked BCLC to waive the $504k fee based on the information being of significant public interest. Should BCLC balk at this request, Unite Here plans to appeal the matter up the provincial government food chain.

BCLC told CBC News that when it receives FOI requests that are “broadly worded and would require extensive time” to process, it was BCLC policy to “work with FOI applicants to try to clarify, refine and narrow the request to conduct a more targeted search … before assessing a fee.”

Sounds reasonable enough, except BCLC has a long history of fighting the public’s FOI requests regarding its casino operations, and using taxpayer dollars to do so. Six years ago, BCLC spent over half a million dollars appealing orders from BC’s information and privacy commissioner regarding an entirely different spate of AML shortcomings, leading BC’s Freedom of Information and Privacy Association (FIPA) to slam BCLC’s “shocking record of non-compliance.” You’ve come a long way, baby…